Online accounting review: FreeAgent/IRIS OpenBooks
Nigel Harris presents an update on FreeAgent Central, one of the pioneers of online accounting in the UK with an application tailored for freelances.
FreeAgent Central was one of the pioneers of online accounting in the UK and has successfully carved out a niche with IT contractors and one-man companies. More recently it was adopted by IRIS as its online solution for its accountant clients and co-branded IRIS OpenBooks ‘powered by FreeAgent’.
The two services are virtually identical, the main difference being that FreeAgent can be used directly from the company’s website (£15 + VAT pm sole trader/£20 pm partnership or LLP/£25pm limited company), while IRIS OpenBooks is resold by accountants who can buy subscriptions for their clients at a sliding price starting at £15 per month (down to £6 pm for firms with more than 200 OpenBooks clients). Accountants can either resell the application to clients at a price of their own choosing, or bundle it with bookkeeping or other services. The flat monthly fee includes unlimited users.
FreeAgent and IRIS OpenBooks represents the ideal solution for one-man IT contractors and freelancers. The service has been fine tuned to meet the needs of that sector, but more recently features such as user access controls and stock management have been added to cater for 1-10 person microbusinesses and product-based businesses.
For a business with employees the built-in payroll function makes this an extremely cost-effective package. As an accountant I was disappointed at the lack of export or print options in the reporting section; surely not that difficult to add, but apparently something for which there is no demand at the moment. If the majority of users are in fact one-man businesses perhaps on-screen reporting is adequate in most cases.
This is obviously not an issue for accountants using IRIS Accounts Production either. Accountants looking to manage clients using online accounts will find that IRIS OpenBooks provides a dashboard overview of all the firm’s OpenBooks users, with the last login details and latest bank balance shown against each client. Unlike services such as KashFlow, IRIS makes no charge to firms for this dashboard facility.